Phoenix Leaders To Review Public Process For Park Land Sales

Published: Monday, February 27, 2017 - 5:05am
Updated: Monday, February 27, 2017 - 7:57am
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(Photo by Phoenix Parks and Recreation)
Kuban Park is located at 33rd Avenue and Sherman Street in Phoenix.

Community outrage over a deal between the city of Phoenix and Grand Canyon University led to big changes several years ago. But, now one council member thinks the process may have too many hoops.

In 2011, when Phoenix sold two acres of park land near 35th Avenue and Missouri to Grand Canyon University, the deal went through the parks board, the parks subcommittee and then the full city council. But, there was no community outreach. 

Councilman Daniel Valenzuela who took office after the deal had been approved in his district said, “There was very little, if any public input. That’s the way it was.” 

Upset neighbors couldn’t get the land back, but they did get the city to create a policy to ensure public participation in future deals. During a recent subcommittee meeting Councilman Michael Nowakowski suggested the 9-step process might make it impossible to sell or trade land.  

“I think that sometimes we have people that come into meetings, up in arms, and sometimes we overkill things and I think we overkilled it on this thing,” he said. “I think we need to find something in the middle.”

In his district, which includes Laveen, Nowakowski says, there are large parcels the city designated for future parks but since the recession those plans have been squashed –at least for the foreseeable future. He says residents in new housing developments want to look at something besides acres of dirt. 

Meanwhile in the established residential neighborhood known as Maryvale, GCU continues to grow and Councilman Daniel Valenzuela is among its biggest supporters. However, he doesn’t want to see a repeat of the way the two-acre deal went down. 

“I just want to caution against taking a step back and making something less transparent,” he said.

The Parks Board has been reviewing the process and the subcommittee is expected to get an update next month.

Since the public notification process was approved by the Parks Board in April 2013, the Department has reported no land disposals, however, Director Inger Erickson told the subcommittee there are two deals in the final steps of the process. One parcel is near the Rose Mofford Sports Complex at 25th Avenue north of Dunlap, the other near Kuban Park at 33rd Avenue and Sherman Street.

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